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BMA intercepts 443 ‘trafficked’ children from Zim to SA

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The Border Management Authority (BMA) has intercepted 42 buses transporting 443 unaccompanied children from Zimbabwe to South Africa.

BMA said the children, under the age of eight, were without any parents or guardians.

BMA commissioner Michael Masiapato revealed the discovery of the alleged human trafficking operation during a festive season border control briefing on Sunday in Pretoria.

Masiapato said the children were discovered during a sting operation on Saturday at the Beitbridge border post involving police, border guards and a home affairs’ anti-corruption team.

“They were able to stop and search about 42 buses trying to enter South Africa and [in] them we found 443 children under the age of eight without any parent or guardian. They were [allegedly] being trafficked into South Africa.

“We were able to take them out of those buses and engage with the Zimbabwe officials and we handed them back to Zimbabwe for processing [back] into the country,” he said.

Other successes Masiapato shared included the arrest of more than 44,000 people since April at various border posts for trying to enter the country illegally, the further arrest of 2,243 people found to have committed crimes near the ports of entry as well as the refusal to grant entry to more than 90,000 people for various reasons.

Outlining the festive season measures, Masiapato said they included some of the country’s busiest ports of entry, such as OR Tambo and Cape Town international airports, Beitbridge and Lebombo.

“During the development of our plan, these realities were taken into consideration, especially regarding the need for the deployment of additional human resources [at these ports].

“During the planning phase, we had intensive inter-jurisdictional engagements with our six immediate neighbours — Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Botswana — on the synchronisation of processes and other work modalities, such as specialised port operating and closing times during this period.”

He confirmed that while some ports operated 24/7, the home affairs minister had approved a request to extend operating hours at other identified “critical ports” on certain days.

These included Grobler’s Bridge, Swartkopfontein, Kosi Bay, Mahamba and Jeppes Reef.

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